Sunday, February 17, 2013

OBJECT #19: Paper Models

    This is the paper ship model that comes with the “Mapping the World with Art” curriculum.  I found it as a free download from an obscure online source.  I printed the pattern on white card stock and used toothpicks for the masts.  It measures only about 4 inches high (10 cm).
    I tried doing this project last fall with a group of students ages 11-14.  It was a bit tedious for most of them.  I think I was the only one who ended up actually finishing my ship.  Part of the problem may have been that they were doing it while in a group situation.  It they had been doing it as an at-home project they might have been less distracted.
    I have a love/hate relationship with paper models.  I am childishly mesmerized by the fact that mere paper can be shaped and glued into incredible 3D shapes.  Paper models can become an addiction.   The Canon company has a website with amazing downloadable patterns.  They have buildings, animals, vehicles, famous statues, cartoon characters, dioramas, and much more.  What has stopped me from downloading and assembling dozens of them is that “hate” part.  My first experience with the downside of paper models occurred years ago when I built Dover’s cut-and-assemble carousel model.  My daughter was in love with carousel horses.  I made a large wooden cut-out for her wall (sensibly durable for a 5-year old), then felt compelled to make the paper carousel (stupidly delicate for a 5-year old).  I can’t remember how it met its final end.  What I do remember is how hard I had to work to delay that ultimate demise.  The most amazing part of its survival is that I don’t think it was eaten by the guinea pigs.

    I have several paper automata (little gizmos that move when you turn a crank).  Two of them are silly pirates, one of whom wobbles back and forth on paper crutches.  Behind the pirates lurks a paper Egyptian tomb with a mummy who pops out of a sarcophagus, making the attending priest shiver with fear.  I was so taken with this one that I tried to make a larger wooden version.  I discovered how tricky it is to scale up a design, adding not just size but weight to the pieces.  I had to make many modifications.  The end result was okay, but didn’t run quite as smoothly as the paper model.

         The biggest paper automata I have is a cartoon version of St. George and his dragon.  (He has to share the mantel with part of my skull collection.)  The motion is quite complex.  The horse rears, the knight raises and lowers his sword, and the dragon snaps his jaws.  I believe this one is still in print, but I think is only available from UK sites.  I am tempted to upscale this, but I think I’ll wait until I get some of my other automata ideas done first. 

    If you like paper models and have not yet discovered paper automata, go to and type in “paper automata.” 

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